Francis Marion National Forest

Francis Marion National Forest. File

A new community in rural Berkeley County will have smaller lot sizes than originally planned, according to a resolution passed Monday by County Council.

The 640 homes planned for a 922-acre site owned by RLF French Quarter Creek will be built on lots that are one-third an acre or “the lot size that the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control will permit for septic tanks,” according to county documents.

Not everyone was pleased. Jason Crowley, land-use project manager for environmental advocate Coastal Conservation League, said the change "runs the risk of creating a disaster that the county is ultimately going to have to come in and rescue.”

“This is a problem in the sense that this property can’t really support that level of density without a public sewer system,” he added. “It is a huge concern and it should be for everyone.”

The site is part of a 4,500-acre tract, known as the Keystone tract, off S.C. Highway 41 near the heart of the Francis Marion National Forest. The entire tract is governed by the October 2007 Keystone Development Agreement, which called for 1-acre parcels. The resolution amends lot sizes in the agreement. 

The agreement also says that Berkeley County will not provide sewer to the remote subdivision.

Much of the parcel is wetlands, and installing more than one septic system per acre sets up the development for failure, Crowley said.

The other option is for the developer to create a private sewer treatment system, Crowley said.

“There have not been any examples in the tri-county region of a successful private package plant,” he said. “They all fail, and then the local government … will have to come in and rescue the homeowners after it fails.”

Almost 1,700 acres of the Keystone tract were sold to the Lowcountry Land Trust, said lawyer George Bullwinkel, who represents the developer. RLF French Quarter Creek is registered in Colorado by Resource Land Holdings.

In February, the developer sought a change to the 922-acre parcel that would allow 10 units per acre but pulled the request before it came before council.

Monday’s resolution, which only required one vote to pass, does not change the number of housing units permitted for the site, said Deputy Supervisor Les Blankenship, but “by concentrating where those houses are located on that 900 acres, it frees up 300 acres” from development.

The higher density will also require less infrastructure, council members said.

The resolution was set to come before council on July 10, but County Supervisor Bill Peagler said it was sent back to the Planning Commission.

The resolution was on the commission’s agenda for Tuesday but will not be discussed since County Council approved it Monday, County Attorney John O. Williams said.

Crowley was not at Monday’s meeting but planned to attend the commission meeting Tuesday.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 843-937-5713. Follow her on Twitter @brindge.